Two white teenage boys, two black women and some Pringles. This was the start to many a evening at Paisley Park gathering in the mid 90s.
Prince would be our host (or The Artist formerly known as Prince at that time) and we would be his guest. He invited us from our various realities and asked us to join him in his.
It was a sub-culture for sure; and some would only visit for a night or a season, but there were some who walked the road for decades. Who spent time and energy to hang with a man who time and again opened up his space to everyday people.
In between the recording and the tours, Prince, a superstar among superstars, created a space inside Paisley Park for people to get a way from their troubles and share life.
Early on in my Paisley going days, Me and my boy would get the word through an employee at the NPG store, a website from a student at Stanford, a call to Paisley Park or a page on the pager with a 911 from our growing friendships. 7801 Audobon Road was our destination and the light of a peace sign above the building was our sign that we made it.
On the ride form south Minneapolis or dinky town, our excitement would grow. We would listen to Prince music and talk about how Prince was in every day life. Like how he buttered his toast, and we’d laugh while we said “butter, on the one”
By the time we arrived we would be in high spirits and find ourselves in the vestibule at the front of the building with our new found friends. We are always second in line and they were always first cause that is how it was. Our stop at the gas station before and the can of Pringles were always a source of conversation. It became a necessity during that season to stop and get the Pringles. To leave them behind would be unacceptable.
As we gathered together we would tell stories and laugh. Talk about the last party and speculate on the one we were about to enter.
The beauty of the Paisley Park parties was the fact that you never knew what might happen. Inside those doors was a world that was different from everyday life. A place that brought people from all walks of life together. Race, gender, age, socio economic position, religious affiliation did not matter. People were invited to come as they were. No more, no less.
It wasn’t always great. Euphoria did not always ensue during a Paisley Party. But the possibility existed that something magical would happen when you walked through those doors.
A new song perhaps. A long stored video of a performance. A glimpse of Prince strolling through the place. Perhaps a celebrity sighting. Or maybe, just maybe, that night would offer an epic jam.
The vibe was not the same with each pass. It depended on the crowd, the notice, the expectations. Prince’s mood. Each experience was unique but certain constants remained. There were the sounds and faces. There were the spaces that we shared.
Through the years, acquaintances would turn into friendships. And friendships, as strange as it may sound, would turn into family. Through the years, we shared a bond. A common appreciation for the music. A common appreciation for the man.
We knew the unpredictability of it all but we never knew what we were going to get so we kept coming back because sometimes we would get a funky good time. Sometimes, just sometimes, we would get the amazing, soul touching experience that would change a person for ever. We never knew what we were going to get but regardless of the night, we knew we’d see familiar faces and be amongst friends.
The parties were mostly spontaneous. Short notice was normal. He’d catch us off guard and just when we were settled in to our normal routines we’d hear their words. Those three words that would stir excitement in the soul. That would less loose adrenaline and send your heart racing, “Party at Paisley”.
The words would be followed by questions and chatter that would attempt to figure out the nature of that evenings party. Performance? Cover charge? What is happening? Information would be traded and the faithful would one time and again commune.
For me, as time passed, my comfort in the space grew. I found peace in the experience and would often think of the vastness of the universe that I inhabited and the reality that I was able to be in this place right here and right now. Often as I listened to the music I would be so grateful that in all of creation I was where I was.
I am not a musician, and would put my musician IQ on the abysmal side of the scale when I first started going out to Paisley Park. But as the years passed and the experiences built, my musical understanding expanded. With time, I grew.
And that growth is what I am most thankful for. That my musical palette has a greater sophistication then it once did. That I am more aware of the nuance in it all then I have ever been. I have been exposed to greatness and have learned so much in my years at Paisley. I am not who I was and for much of it, I have Prince to thank for hipping me to things I otherwise would not have known. I have him to thank for introducing me, although passively, to people I would have never met.
With Prince’s passing, I have committed myself to continue growing. I have become more intentional then ever to challenge myself to go deeper with the music, to follow with more determination and vigor my own calling.
I feel like Prince would I appreciate this attitude and that I honor him with this perspective. At the last party I attended he spoke to the crowd on how he had been dedicating himself to the piano as of late. That he wasn’t playing anything else so he could focus on improving his skills on that instrument. As he said it, I thought what the heck is he talking about, he’s Prince and doesn’t need to improve anything. But as I’ve reflected, the statement has struck with me as I’ve thought about this mans dedication to his craft. He was forever growing, forever pushing himself, forever improving.
He was not complacent with his accomplishments or his achievements but wanted to improve his work. I believe this dedication had matured throughout his life. He had music, and he wanted to share it with the world. He wanted to touch people with his gifts. He was an emissary of love and hope and his work compelled him to not stay complacent in what he had done or accomplished.
I miss the anticipation of what might happen now. With Prince’s passing the words “Party at Paisley” will never elicit the same response. To my Paisley crew, I thank you for joining me on the ride, it would not have been the same without you, and for I am so very grateful.
Peace and Be Wild!